Hydrogen is, as we all know, the ideal fuel of the future. It is non-polluting when burned — water being its only waste product. The problem with hydrogen is that it is expensive to make. Water needs to be elecrolysed — which takes a lot of electrical power — and, tt make the process more than halfway efficient, it needs to be catalysed by a very expensive, and rare, metal, platinum.
I have Steve Kurtz to thank for sending me details of the research by a team at Indiana University and published in the journal Nature Chemistry and on the internet’s ScienceDaily who seem to have cracked the problem of producing relatively inexpensive hydrogen, Trevor Douglas, the Earl Blough Professor of Chemistry in the Bloomington College Department of Chemistry, who led the research says this of it: “Essentially, we’ve [used self-assemblying myriad genetic] building blocks [capable of making an enzyme which takes in] protons and spitting out hydrogen gas,”
The only thing non-scientific readers need to know is that an “enzyme” is the organic chemistry equivalent of a catalyst in inorganic chemistry. In this case, the enzyme is a special version of hydrogenase. And, in the words of Douglas again: “This material is comparable to platinum, except it’s truly renewable. You don’t need to mine it; you can create it at room temperature on a massive scale using fermentation technology; it’s biodegradable. It’s a very green process to make a very high-end sustainable material.”
So there we have it so far, It will need piloting on an industrial scale. If it all come off well, then will truly have the fuel of the future. It will not be dirt cheap. Nothing ever is. “Meat pies don’t fall out of the heavens” as the Chinese say, but it will be very much cheaper than present proposals for electric cars that are now being made. Fuel cell cars running on electricity made from naturally made hydrogen will relieve the financial burden enofmously — as well as not burning carbon fuels in power stations to make hydrogen.